In the most recent issue of Elle Canada, Cindy Crawford spoke out about the supposedly “un-retouched” lingerie photo of her from an old Marie Claire shoot that made the rounds online in February. The image became a viral sensation, with many celebrating Crawford as a role model in the fight for body positivity. Yet a short while later, photographer John Russo released a statement saying that the photos had been "fraudulently altered" to make Crawford look worse.
“I felt that [the journalist who first broadcast the image] was inauthentic because she acted like this was great but she didn’t check if I wanted this out or if it was a real picture," Crawford confessed to Elle Canada, speaking out about the issue for the first time. "Why would seeing a bad picture of me make other people feel good. I felt blindsided. I was very conflicted, to be honest.”
Crawford explained that she was initially surprised by the photo, because she didn’t think it looked like her body. Then again, she thought "maybe I have a false body image; maybe I think I look better than I do. I think that most women are hard on themselves. We think we look worse than we do. So I assumed I fell into that category, even though that picture didn’t reflect what I saw when I looked in the mirror—even in the worst dressing-room lighting.”
Crawford goes on to corroborate Russo's claims that the image was doctored. "We spoke to the photographer, and he was very upset because he didn’t put it out there,” she explains. "He said: ‘Cindy, I’m going to send you the real one and it’s nothing like that. It’s clear that someone manipulated that image to make whatever was there worse.’ It was stolen and it was malicious, but there was so much positive reaction [to the image].”
Crawford found herself in a tricky situation — wanting to protest the images because they misrepresented her (not to mention the fact they were stolen and edited against her will), yet conflicted because so many women were celebrating the photos as an emblem of feminist empowerment.
"Sometimes, the images that women see in magazines make them feel inferior—even though the intention is never to make anyone feel less,” she said, thoughtfully. "So somehow seeing a picture of me was like seeing a chink in the armour. Whether it was real or not isn’t relevant, although it’s relevant to me. I don’t try to present myself as perfect. It put me in a tough spot: I couldn’t come out against it because I’m rejecting all these people who felt good about it, but I also didn’t embrace it because it wasn’t real—and even if it were real, I wouldn’t have wanted it out there. I felt really manipulated and conflicted, so I kept my mouth shut.”
Ultimately, Crawford says she used the whole experience to teach her daughter some hard truths about how women are treated online and in the media. "This is exactly the type of thing that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do to another girl online," Crawford said. "It’s social bullying. I’m a big girl and I can handle it, but I used it as a teaching lesson for my own daughter."
Read the full interview over at Elle Canada.